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The culinary options on the island of Oahu are delicious, varied and seemingly endless.




When I go to Honolulu, I know I’m in for a gastronomic treat. First, there are the signature restaurants of longtime cutting-edge Hawaiian chefs, like Alan Wong, Sam Choy and Roy Yamaguchi.

But my other joy in Honolulu is getting out onto the streets and into the neighborhoods for a true local culinary experience.

You can start with a real staple of Hawaiian cuisine: the basic plate lunch, right from a local food truck, where you get a plate filled with scoops of white rice, macaroni salad and an entrée (usually kalua pork, teriyaki beef or chicken katsu).

If you really want to go local, visit any market and pick up Spam musubi. This is a sweet and savory Oahu snack: a block of pressed rice topped with a slice of Spam fried in a special soy and sugar sauce, and with a dried seaweed wrap.

Here are just a few recommendations for your culinary tour of Oahu.

    Enjoying an outdoor meal in Honolulu. © MARIDAV / SHUTTERSTOCK

    Cooke Street Diner

    Honolulu’s Cooke Street Diner, a 10-minute drive from Waikiki Beach, is rather nondescript; the tiny restaurant has only five tables, and the décor is definitely no-frills. However, don’t let the diner’s humble appearance fool you. It serves incredible plate lunches at very reasonable prices (most menu items are under $10).

      Helena’s Hawaiian Food

      Helena’s is a 15-minute drive from Waikiki and payment is cash only. The best way to order at Helena’s is to get food from the set menu, which lets you try several different dishes at a cheaper price than the à la carte menu. However, the fried butterfish collar from the à la carte menu is a side you shouldn’t skip. And, you get complimentary haupia (coconut pudding) at the end of your meal.

        Malasadas. UCKYO / STOCK.ADOBE.COM

        Leonard’s Bakery

        If you’re looking for a sweet treat 10 minutes outside of Waikiki, stop at Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas. These are Portuguese doughnuts without a hole, popularized in Hawaii by Portuguese plantation workers in the 19th century.

        Leonard’s puts its own spin on the classic dessert by offering chocolate- and coconut-filled doughnuts, along with a monthly special filling (they’ve had everything from green apple to guava). It also offers different sugar coating options: plain, cinnamon sugar and li hing (salted plum) for more adventurous eaters.

          Senia

          Senia offers an eclectic mash-up of Hawaiian, French and American cuisine in the center of Honolulu. There are many highlights, but you shouldn’t miss the duck, the charred cabbage, the ahi brioche or the citrus-infused hamachi. You can go for the more expensive tasting menu or order from the à la carte menu. Reservations are a must at this spot—the dining room is full most nights.

            The Pig and the Lady

            This Vietnamese fusion restaurant in downtown Honolulu is a great option for creative food in a casual environment. Though you can get Vietnamese staples like pho and banh mi, The Pig and the Lady also features creative spins on the classics. The pho French dip banh mi puts the contents of the Vietnamese soup (including the noodles!) between a baguette and uses pho broth for dipping, with delicious results. The LFC (Laotian fried chicken) wings are also a must order. Make sure you save room for the soft-serve custard after your meal.

            The food is more expensive than at other Vietnamese restaurants, and you should make reservations: The restaurant is almost always full.

              Vietnamese rolls with vegetables, rice noodles and prawns. © CHANDLERVID85

              Hale Vietnam

              In Kaimuki, about 15 minutes from downtown Honolulu and right by the University of Hawaii, this Vietnamese restaurant has some of the best pho in Oahu. The spring rolls, barbecue pork buns and papaya salads are also excellent options. The food is reasonably priced, and though the service is somewhat no-frills, you’ll be in and out quickly, making this a good pit stop for a fast lunch.

                North Shore noshing

                While eating your way around the island, don’t forget the North Shore!

                An unassuming mini-mart in Kahuku, the Kahuku Superette is home to world-class poke.

                The poke there is simple: tuna mixed with soy sauce and sesame oil, seaweed, sweet onions and rice. And their kimchi perfectly complements the poke.

                In Waialua, Paalaa Kai Mini-Mart and Bakery are great places to grab fried chicken and dessert.

                Stop at the mini-mart first for fried chicken and Spam musubi. Then go next door to the bakery, known for its Snow Pufies—layers of pastry filled with cold custard and topped with chocolate and powdered sugar.—PG

                As seen in the COSTCO CONNECTION, May 2019

                  When I go to Honolulu, I know I’m in for a gastronomic treat. First, there are the signature restaurants of longtime cutting-edge Hawaiian chefs, like Alan Wong, Sam Choy and Roy Yamaguchi.

                  But my other joy in Honolulu is getting out onto the streets and into the neighborhoods for a true local culinary experience.

                  You can start with a real staple of Hawaiian cuisine: the basic plate lunch, right from a local food truck, where you get a plate filled with scoops of white rice, macaroni salad and an entrée (usually kalua pork, teriyaki beef or chicken katsu).

                  If you really want to go local, visit any market and pick up Spam musubi. This is a sweet and savory Oahu snack: a block of pressed rice topped with a slice of Spam fried in a special soy and sugar sauce, and with a dried seaweed wrap.

                  Here are just a few recommendations for your culinary tour of Oahu.

                    Enjoying an outdoor meal in Honolulu. © MARIDAV / SHUTTERSTOCK

                    Cooke Street Diner

                    Honolulu’s Cooke Street Diner, a 10-minute drive from Waikiki Beach, is rather nondescript; the tiny restaurant has only five tables, and the décor is definitely no-frills. However, don’t let the diner’s humble appearance fool you. It serves incredible plate lunches at very reasonable prices (most menu items are under $10).

                      Helena’s Hawaiian Food

                      Helena’s is a 15-minute drive from Waikiki and payment is cash only. The best way to order at Helena’s is to get food from the set menu, which lets you try several different dishes at a cheaper price than the à la carte menu. However, the fried butterfish collar from the à la carte menu is a side you shouldn’t skip. And, you get complimentary haupia (coconut pudding) at the end of your meal.

                        Malasadas. UCKYO / STOCK.ADOBE.COM

                        Leonard’s Bakery

                        If you’re looking for a sweet treat 10 minutes outside of Waikiki, stop at Leonard’s Bakery for malasadas. These are Portuguese doughnuts without a hole, popularized in Hawaii by Portuguese plantation workers in the 19th century.

                        Leonard’s puts its own spin on the classic dessert by offering chocolate- and coconut-filled doughnuts, along with a monthly special filling (they’ve had everything from green apple to guava). It also offers different sugar coating options: plain, cinnamon sugar and li hing (salted plum) for more adventurous eaters.

                          Senia

                          Senia offers an eclectic mash-up of Hawaiian, French and American cuisine in the center of Honolulu. There are many highlights, but you shouldn’t miss the duck, the charred cabbage, the ahi brioche or the citrus-infused hamachi. You can go for the more expensive tasting menu or order from the à la carte menu. Reservations are a must at this spot—the dining room is full most nights.

                            The Pig and the Lady

                            This Vietnamese fusion restaurant in downtown Honolulu is a great option for creative food in a casual environment. Though you can get Vietnamese staples like pho and banh mi, The Pig and the Lady also features creative spins on the classics. The pho French dip banh mi puts the contents of the Vietnamese soup (including the noodles!) between a baguette and uses pho broth for dipping, with delicious results. The LFC (Laotian fried chicken) wings are also a must order. Make sure you save room for the soft-serve custard after your meal.

                            The food is more expensive than at other Vietnamese restaurants, and you should make reservations: The restaurant is almost always full.

                              Vietnamese rolls with vegetables, rice noodles and prawns. © CHANDLERVID85

                              Hale Vietnam

                              In Kaimuki, about 15 minutes from downtown Honolulu and right by the University of Hawaii, this Vietnamese restaurant has some of the best pho in Oahu. The spring rolls, barbecue pork buns and papaya salads are also excellent options. The food is reasonably priced, and though the service is somewhat no-frills, you’ll be in and out quickly, making this a good pit stop for a fast lunch.

                                North Shore noshing

                                While eating your way around the island, don’t forget the North Shore!

                                An unassuming mini-mart in Kahuku, the Kahuku Superette is home to world-class poke.

                                The poke there is simple: tuna mixed with soy sauce and sesame oil, seaweed, sweet onions and rice. And their kimchi perfectly complements the poke.

                                In Waialua, Paalaa Kai Mini-Mart and Bakery are great places to grab fried chicken and dessert.

                                Stop at the mini-mart first for fried chicken and Spam musubi. Then go next door to the bakery, known for its Snow Pufies—layers of pastry filled with cold custard and topped with chocolate and powdered sugar.—PG

                                As seen in the COSTCO CONNECTION, May 2019


                                  Image of Peter Greenberg

                                  Peter Greenberg is the multiple–Emmy Award–winning travel editor for CBS News and host of The Travel Detective on public television (petergreenberg.com).


                                   
                                   
                                   
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